Xenia Tchoumitcheva, 1989, became widely known with her participation in the Miss Switzerland Competition of 2006. She won second place, received the „Miss Photogenic“ award and shortly thereafter made a name for herself nationally and internationally in the fashion world – a great achievement. Already at age 13, Xenia Tchoumitcheva was working in the fashion world and had won several fashion and beauty contests. She is, however, not only beautiful, but charming, knows what she wants and is an ambitious businesswoman with clear ideas. In recent months, following her economic studies, Xenia Tchoumitcheva worked for financial institutions in Zurich and London, accompanied by the international media. Xenia Tchoumitcheva speaks 5 languages and is represented by Elite Model Management. In her talk with Christian Dueblin, Xenia Tchoumitcheva speaks about her cultural background, shows how self-management functions, what parts of herself she considers Russian and Italian, and what beauty means to her.
Dueblin: Miss Tchoumitcheva, in 2006 you participated in the Miss Switzerland Competition and have, since then, been often portrayed in the media. With a university degree, as a businesswoman and working successfully in the financial sector, you set yourself far apart from the many other beauties in the world. What was it that motivated you to participate in the Miss Switzerland Competition?
Xenia Tchoumitcheva: Since I was 12 years old, I have worked on and off as a model and was involved in fashion. As a little girl, I saw a fashion show with my mother and was completely entranced. I decided that I also wanted to work as a model. Even during my studies I modelled and earned my living that way. At some point a friend asked me, rather casually, if I ever wanted to participate in the Miss Switzerland Competition. I went to the Preliminary Competition and everything went better than I had expected. I didn’t do all this “just for fun” though. I had already considered that participation in the Miss Switzerland Competition could improve my modelling offers and as well as opening new doors in the fashion world for me. I was right. After the competition, I received very interesting offers that I enjoy very much.
Dueblin: When did you realize that you had the beauty and charisma which excites and attracts people and that the fashion world could profit from?
Xenia Tchoumitcheva: I won local beauty pageants and often took part in various fashion and beauty contests. I had a lot of fun. At 13 I won my first title. So, as you can see, the Miss Switzerland Competition was certainly bigger, but nothing really new to me. (Laughs) In the beginning, my parents were not excited about my decision to model. They didn’t stand in my way, however, and thought I should do what makes me happy. From the beginning my parents always accompanied me and supported me fully and when I was still quite young, we went to an agency together that picked me up and promoted me.
Dueblin: You have a very interesting cultural background. You have Russian parents and grew up in the Ticino. Which culture do you feel closest to and what influence do you feel that Russian culture has had on your life today?
Xenia Tchoumitcheva: My parents both come from Russia, from the Ural region. The city is called Magnitogorsk. When I was 6 years old, my father moved with my family to Switzerland for business purposes. We settled in Lugano. Of course I consider myself Swiss, but when I am asked about my Russian roots, I realize that I actually think of myself as more Italian than Russian. In the Ticino we are naturally very connected to Italy; we watch Italian movies and Italian TV. That has influenced me my entire life and has also affected my character.
I would describe my drive and the ambitions that I have and must have, as “Russian”. Russian people are very literate and education is extremely important in Russia. I myself read quite a lot and education has always been an important factor and driving force in my life. For me, having a modelling career without a concurrent proper education was unthinkable. Today I am very happy that I was able to do both successfully.
Dueblin: Beauty ideals are constantly changing. Perhaps you would not have been considered beautiful in the court of the Sun-King Louis XIV or you would not have received an acting role in a film with Douglas Fairbanks in the 20’s. How would you personally define “beauty” and what does it take these days to convey beauty in the media?
Xenia Tchoumitcheva: That is not easy to define. Beauty is not just something connected with a physical attribute. It has more to do with a whole package of prerequisites that one must have to be successful in the world of beauty and to be able to compete with many other beautiful people. Naturally a beautiful appearance is a basic requirement. The eyes, face and body are important factors, but also very important is care. By care, I don’t just mean the hair or the skin, but also sports in order to keep the body fit. I would define this care as “styling”: a factor that cannot be underestimated in the fashion world. An example here is which colours suit a person. Finally, one must also know how to market oneself. This is no different than a company that is faced with certain competition and has to market their products effectively. There are companies that master this brilliantly and others less well. However, all of this is only a part of this package called “beauty.” A person’s charisma is very important. This is the way that a person interacts with other people: the way he or she moves and acts. You can see that there are people, who are not particularly beautiful to look at, but who move and act attractively and that makes them beautiful and appealing to others. The charisma that such people have comes from inside and can be more important than just “beauty”. This type of charisma cannot be faked and that makes it very interesting.
Dueblin: You move expertly in front of a camera and on the runway and have acquired great skill and experience in those areas. What is the difference between modelling and acting – an area that you have also pursued with some fascination?
Xenia Tchoumitcheva: I don’t act when I walk on the runway or when I work as a model — I’m always myself. I believe this is also my recipe for success. Last year, after my graduation in New York, I had the opportunity to take acting lesson at the New York Film Academy, a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. The really great actors that we know from theater or film believe completely in what they are doing on the stage or on the set. They believe in their role even more than the audience and that makes it very believable to that audience. That’s what we expect and want to see from a good actor or actress. We don’t want to notice that this person is only “playing” the role. That would ruin the enjoyment of the play or film. The good actors and actresses are those that perform believably. The runway, however, is not acting for me. I’ve been doing it for many years and you get into a certain routine. It’s a job, work, nothing more and nothing less. I show clothes or jewellery, that were designed by someone and I know how I have to move so that these achieve the desired effect. Compared to acting, that is very easy (laughs).
Dueblin: When we last spoke, you were still finishing up your university studies. Since then you’ve received your degree in Economics and have worked in the financial sector. How do you manage all of this?
Xenia Tchoumitcheva: After my economic studies, I did an internship for Merryll Lynch and then worked in London for Hedge Fund Duet Group and JP Morgan Chase. I could have continued working for them, but didn’t want to. These positions provided me with great work experience and I met wonderful and interesting people. After my studies, I definitely wanted to get this type of work experience, but I was already keenly aware long before-hand that a career in the financial sector is not something one does part-time. I run my own business and have my own business ideas and am mainly interested in developing these. Neither can be done well as a side-job. I made the decision to continue building my own business, branding and retail. That is what I’ve always wanted. Thus, my career as a banker is presently concluded (laughs).
Dueblin: Being beautiful is not always a walk in the park. How did this affect your working career? Can beauty be a disadvantage, for instance, in the financial sector, where performance and achievement are so crucial?
Xenia Tchoumitcheva: When beauty and fame are combined, it’s even more difficult! Just yesterday I had a VIP-appearance. Immediately afterwards, I wanted to meet a good friend in the lobby and I put my hair up, took off my high-heel shoes and put on a cap. I was barely out the door when someone spoke to me: the disguise didn’t work at all. This can get to the point where a person never has a quiet minute. I look at it from a professional point of view, however. For me, it’s “show”. After work, I go back home and can distance myself. People in the public eye should be happy when they get such attention. Our livelihood depends on it and that is why I am certainly not complaining. It is true, however, that beauty and fame have both positive and less positive aspects. This is true of a lot of professions. You can’t have it all.
You mentioned beauty and work and performance. I can tell you this: when I started working with banks and hedge funds after my studies, I was literally being hounded by the media, especially in London. The media interest was so huge, it even surprised me. I had some work with Bloomberg and was apparently the “most viewed person ever“ in the existence of Bloomberg. Even newspapers and magazines from Russia, Hong Kong and Tokyo were interested and reported on me and my work in London. I hadn’t expected this kind of scenario. It was a bit strange and also had an uncomfortable aspect. My boss came to realize that I presented a certain risk. Not that they treated me any differently, I was very happy with my work and my working environment. It was clear, however, that in such situations, one wrong word to the media can put the entire firm in a bad light. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, quite the contrary. And today I am again able to work with the media, to give interviews and to write.
Dueblin: Miss Tchoumitcheva, what makes you happy and what are your plans for the coming weeks?
Xenia Tchoumitcheva: I live from relationships with people, be it at work, in my family or among my friends and colleagues. It is the relationships with these people and the time spent with them that makes me happy. Without them, I would not be able to enjoy my work. They are my elixir of life, most especially my family. In recent months, I was away a lot – in London and then also in Ibiza. Here in Switzerland I also have a lot to do and I just received news from New York about something big that also looks very appealing. I am speaking with investors and businesses, and as I said, I’m continuing to develop my business which is very challenging. At the end of September 2011, I had the chance to moderate the Miss Switzerland Competition for Swiss TV. I was really excited about that.
Dueblin: Dear Miss Tchoumitcheva, thank you very much for this interview. I wish you all the best for your future and continued success with your projects!
(C) 2011 by Christian Dueblin. All rights reserved. Other publications require the author’s explicit consent.